A series of electronic messages circulated among members of the Lafayette Charter Commission offer insight into where the panel’s deliberations may lead in the coming months. Discussion at the Oct. 11 meeting centered on Lafayette’s need to obtain self-determination through its own council. The email sequence that followed that meeting suggests that at least two commissioners including the panel’s chairman intend to direct conversation toward that discussion.
The series begins with an Oct. 12 message from commission Chairman George Lewis, who provides as an attachment to his message a chart delineating six options for the council to consider in making its recommendation to voters:
1. Maintain the current form of consolidated government 2. Maintain the current form of government but establish a separate commission to operate Lafayette Utilities System, a city-owned enterprise 3. Adopt the consolidated form of government in place in Duval County, Fla., which would give Lafayette a city council but maintain the mayor-president form of executive oversight currently in use by LCG 4. Give Lafayette a city council and the parish a parish council; keep operations of the two consolidated and have a mayor-president 5. Separte city and parish councils with a mayor for Lafayette and a parish president; maintain consolidated operations 6. Total deconsolidation
In Commissioner Bruce Conque’s Oct. 11 presentation, a proposal was made that Lafayette Parish adopt a modified version of Duval County, with Lafayette having a separate city council and mayor and breaking up the parish into seven “services districts” (municipal boundaries) comprising the six municipalities — Broussard, Carencro, Duson, Lafayette, Scott and Youngsville — and unincorporated Lafayette Parish.
Lewis’ message the following day acknowledges Conque’s call for Lafayette having its own council, but Lewis takes exception with some of Conque’s points:
It seems that a majority of the commission feels that the City of Lafayette should have its own government. ...As I noted last night, I think that the simplest and easiest solution to this issue is Column Number 4 where the only change in the governance structure is to establish a separate 5 member City council but keep one Mayor/President position and one CAO and continue the consolidation of services. That would solve the issue of the LPUA — it would be governed by the City Council, all of whom would be residents of the City of Lafayette...
Lewis also proposes that the mayor-president of Lafayette Parish, who would have veto authority over the votes of the Lafayette City Council, could be a resident of anywhere in the parish, as is currently the case. Lewis also warns against Conque’s use of the term “services districts,” arguing that the commission needs “to keep our proposal as simple as possible without confusing the issues.”
The commissioner also proposes simplifying the description of duties of city and parish departments to give the administration more flexibility, as well as convening a charter commission every 10 years to review the charter for possible updates/changes.
On Oct. 13, in reply, Conque acknowledges that his model is encumbered by the use of services districts, but argues that Lafayette needs not only its own council, but its own mayor as well, saying to do otherwise “ignores a hard learned political history lesson.”
You acknowledge that the Mayor/President would be a resident of the Parish who might be a resident of Lafayette, or a resident of Youngsville, or someone from the unincorporated area of the Parish. And to the detriment of the City of Lafayette that is what occurred in the first eight years of LCG.
Parish President Walter Comeaux was not a City of Lafayette resident and, thus, had no vested interest in our development. In fact, he gave away the one “carrot” for City growth by providing wholesale water to most of the Parish. The result was that the City of Lafayette actually decreased in its percentage of Parish population from 66% to 54% under LCG.
...The City of Lafayette has sacrificed its sovereignty for the greater good of the whole under Lafayette Consolidated Government. Fellow Commissioners, let’s continue our effort to treat the City of Lafayette fairly and equally under whatever structure of government which we may recommend.
However, not all of Conque’s fellow commissioners were swayed by his entreaty. In a message the next day to the commission, Commissioner Don Bacque, a city of Lafayette resident, tells members of the panel he remains skeptical of the direction the commission is headed:
The only string that binds all of us together is that we are residents of Lafayette Parish. In my mind, anything that we suggest to the citizens should respond to this question: “is it better for the parish”; not as we are hearing: “is it better for the city?” I question the logic of the often heard allegation that a council member elected from the unincorporated area cannot fairly represent the interests of city residents. ... I suggest that a council member, elected by only city residents, may be just as truculent, and our history of administration vs. council has many instances of that happening.
... I think that Bruce’s concept, less the additional elected members, is a viable one. I am still not convinced that an additional layer of governance, with its won additional bureaucracy, is the anwer, but I am willing to listen.
The Lafayette Charter Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the City-Parish Council auditorium. The meeting is open to the public and also airs on AOC.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.